Responding on social media: keys to success

Rural Hospitals face special challenges on social media, learning how to interact with patients in public is essential.

You likely know the enormous benefits of setting up some social media accounts for your rural healthcare facility; you’ve examined your yearly calendar for marketing opportunities and selected an experienced firm to manage these accounts. But your work is not quite done. How do you respond to some of the inquiries from patients and potential patients?

The way you respond to your audience becomes the difference between good public relations and disastrous public relations. It is imperative that any administrators to these accounts have a set of rules to keep their responses focused and in the best interest of the hospital.

Creating some response guidelines will help when the waters become murky and a prompt, professional reply is needed. Social media is in real time, so remember that it needs to be monitored and dealt with swiftly. There are some keys to success.

Responding to service complaints

It is inevitable that you will get complaints of poor service, but if you address them quickly and respectfully you can show the patient, as well as the rest of the community, that you care about the patient’s experience.

Start by thanking them for contacting you and letting you know about the issue. Then insist that you want the best experience for your patients, acknowledge  the experience they had, and make it clear you are committed to understanding what has happened. Finally, invite the patient to contact someone in your organization to discuss the problem, the more senior the contact the better.

Do not argue with the patient or carry on a long discussion on the social media platform. You want to move the discussion outside the public view and try to have the conversation end with your commitment to resolve the problem for the patient.

Responding to requests for medical advice

Patients may try to get a quick diagnosis via social media. Use this as an opportunity to direct them to the most appropriate healthcare provider in your organization.  A good example would be, “Hi Susan, thank you for reaching out to us. Dr. John Doe, our OB/GYN provider would be the best person to help you. Please give him a call at Phone number  to set up an appointment.” This response shows that you care about the patient and their concerns, highlights the provider’s experience, and brings a new patient to your facility.

Responding to disinformation and medical advice

Social media is about sharing things we learn with one another. That said, your rural hospital will be held responsible for all the information shared on your social media platform. It’s critical that you don’t allow visitors to share medical information that you have not vetted, or which doesn’t represent the advice of your medical staff.

The best response to such posts is to remove them quietly and quickly. If you anger the poster, you want to be ready with a polite explanation of why you only allow medical advice provided by your staff. It’s for the safety of your patients, and to protect your institution from liability. Avoid commenting on the validity or quality of the information shared.

Don’t forget to create social media posting policies

To protect against HIPAA breaches and avoid negative perceptions of your organization by team members, you should draft a strong social media policy and train all employees. Some things to think about include prohibiting employees from sharing patient information such as diagnoses, photos, etc., as well as determining whether it is appropriate for staff members to connect with patients on social media.

If you are ready for a new approach to your on-line marketing, give SRJ Marketing Communications a call for a free consultation, please call 214-528- 5775.